A Visitor's Guide to Kalkan, Turkey
The charming coastal resort town of Kalkan has been on the map for a long time, but only blossomed into a sophisticated holiday resort in the past few decades.
Kalkan – The Pros and Cons
Located at the base of the Taurus Mountains on the only natural harbour between Fethiye and Kaş, the fishing-village-turned-holiday-resort is a Mecca for "foodie" holiday makers. With choices ranging from fast food like pide and kebabs to award-winning international cuisine, the town has a reputation for having the highest concentration of bars and restaurants of any town along Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Upscale boutiques, featuring products made by talented Turkish artisans, are interspersed between the bars and restaurants lining the narrow winding streets around Kalkan's small harbour. And, because the town is built onto the slope of the mountains, almost every establishment offers a fabulous view of the sea.
One downside to Kalkan as a seaside resort is its distinct lack of beaches. However, Patara, one of Turkey's longest white sand beaches (and the birthplace of St. Nicholas!) and Kaputaş (a spectacular beach at the mouth of a steep mountain canyon) are only a short drive away.
The hilly terrain is also an important consideration for visitors to Kalkan, particularly those with mobility issues. Getting around can be a challenge, but taxis are relatively inexpensive and readily available to shuttle tourists up and down the town's steep inclines.
Kalkan's Unassuming History
Kalkan was mostly inhabited by Greeks until the population exchange in 1923, resulting in a strong Ottoman-Greek influence on the architecture of the town's white-washed buildings and houses. Even the mosque overlooking the harbour has a Greek-feel – which makes sense because it was originally built as an Orthodox church and only converted to a mosque after World War II.
Unlike many other places we visit along Turkey's Lycian coast, Kalkan does not have a long or significant history. Her neighbouring cities (for example, Patara, Tlos, Pinara and Xanthos) were of much greater historical importance. By comparison, Kalkan was relatively small and unassuming – basically a fishing settlement on a natural harbour. Because the harbour was well-protected, it was used as a regional transportation hub for ships crossing the Mediterranean. However, demand for that service declined as Turkey's infrastructure improved and transporting goods by road became more feasible. It seemed the tiny community would slowly fade into oblivion.
Kalkan Rediscovered... and Revitalized
Fortunately, wealthy foreign tourists seeking sunshine and solitude "re-discovered" Kalkan in the 1970s and 80s, leading to the town's re-birth as an upscale holiday community. With beautiful Mediterranean weather, gorgeous scenery, and tranquil atmosphere, there is no doubt that Kalkan is a lovely vacation destination.
Nowadays, Kalkan's economy is based solely on tourism and strict building codes are in place to preserve the town's charming and historic feeling. The effort must be worth it, as many visitors return to their beloved holiday resort time and time again. It is definitely worth a visit – and who knows – you may become a Kalkan devotee too!
Picturesque Kalkan: Photographic Highlights
Updated September 15, 2021
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